Teachers Shouldn’t Have Homework

Mike Lawson • Archives • January 19, 2009

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Fortunately, there are both Web-based and stand-alone software applications that can help teachers create, catalog, and modify their own lesson plans and exchange them with other educators. In addition, there are a host of music software applications that contain ready-to-use lesson plans, as well as books that contain classroom-ready music technology lessons.

Ready-Made Lesson Plan Applications
Have you considered trying a ready-made lesson plan software application? You can redevelop and customize them over time, and retrieve them in a split second. Because lesson plan applications use a database format, retrieving old plans is simple and quick. Just click a grade level, choose a subject area, and voila print out the lesson-plan or export it as a file. The OnCourse Web-based Lesson Planner revolutionizes the way teachers create, manage and share lesson plans. Through easy-to-use online templates, teachers can write, edit, and collaborate. Principals and music supervisors can review and comment on the plans electronically. And teachers can map lessons to educational standards.

Teacher’s Information Manager Deluxe by Visions Technology provides detailed student information, including grade books, attendance sheets, and seating charts. Basic and advanced modes accommodate users with differing levels of computer experience. You can even integrate pictures of students! The lesson planner component allows users to create standard lesson plans, share them with others, and link them directly to a Web site (particularly helpful for substitute teachers). iLessonPlan is an online lesson planning software worth investigating at www.iLessonPlan.com.

FTC Publishing has incorporated Web 2.0 tools with its WriteIt! Live (WIL), which is a Web-based writing application that creates an interactive, paperless writing environment. It allows teachers to distribute new assignments to their students from any computer with Internet access. Students can view, complete, and submit their writing assignments digitally. It also encourages teachers and students to work together to create successful assignments. This is achieved through prompted-writing, a system allowing teachers to create a basic framework for students to follow when completing their assignment. There are over 100 writing templates in all subjects, including music. One other element I like about WriteIt is that it makes it easy to create and distribute assignments to students.

Books With Lesson Plans
Educators purchasing Finale for the first time receive a printed installation and tutorial guide with 10 creative, in-depth projects perfect for a classroom situation. Those who follow the tutorials in this slim volume receive an excellent grounding for how to get the most out of Finale. When you upgrade from a previous version of Finale you do not receive another printed copy of the tutorial guide, but you always receive an updated electronic copy, and it’s always close at hand, available from Finale’s Launch Window and Help Menu (found under the User Manual). This can provide excellent foundational lesson planning.

Tom Carruth has produced an outstanding new publication, The Finale Projects, which is helpful for creating complicated compositional projects with detailed, sequential lesson plans. A CD is included with the ready-made projects.

Sibelius has a K-8 music book with 55 creativity-oriented lesson plans that feature five of their products: Groovy Shapes, Jungle, and City, and Sibelius or Sibelius Student. Each lesson focuses on one of those software titles. They are written and tested, by teachers. A high school lesson plan book that will cover Sibelius and Pro Tools is coming in early 2009.

Mixcraft, an ultra creative digital/audio sequencer much like GarageBand only with even more features for PC, has an incredible book published with a semester’s worth of lesson plans for daily instruction entitled: Mixcraft for the Classroom. Not surprisingly, it contains step-by-step, field-tested lesson plans for using Mixcraft in the classroom. This unique combination of sequencing software and correlated textbook takes the Teaching Music with Reason sequencing curriculum model to a new level with more classroom opportunities.

Amy Burns’ Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom by Hal Leonard can be a significant resource for teachers at any level of technical ability. Its incorporation of teaching standards is a great model for how to create lesson plans with technology, featuring the best lesson plan ideas by guest educators. These lessons can be adapted to fit a general classroom with one computer, or music-on-a-cart. Support audio files, MIDI files, and other electronic documents can be accessed for free through a dedicated Web site.

Lesson Planning Web Sites
TI:ME (Technology Institute of Music Educators) has hundreds of Web-based lessons that represent the largest collection of lesson plans on the Internet, but you need to be a member of the organization to access them. However, TI:ME’s membership is very enthusiastic in contributing to their Web site, www.ti-me.org. The only drawback is that the lessons don’t have reference files. But you will find a wealth of information to replicate the lessons, including grade level(s), equipment needed, lesson durations, and prior knowledge or skills that the students will need. MENC national standards are given along with teaching materials, objectives, procedures, evaluation, follow-up items to purchase and more. You can sort the lessons three ways: by grade level, by MENC standard, or by technology area.

SoundTree.com offers very innovative music tech lesson plans. On its main Web site, www.soundtree.com, there’s a heading for lesson plans compiled by some very prominent music technology clinicians: Tom Rudolph, Jim Frankel, and Mike Fein, to name a few.

The Web site for the now-defunct Music Education Technology publication provides excellent Web-based lesson plans on music technology that can be found at: metmagazine.com/lessonplan/online_lesson_plans/. That Web site also includes some excellent articles dealing with lesson plans on topics such as film scoring in the classroom, creating practice files, themes and variations, teaching dynamics, finding and manipulating MIDI files, composing with the Blues, teaching song form, drumming with keyboards, your new accompanist, and scoring.

Other recommended sites for lesson plans include: MET archives at www.metmagazine.com; Apple resources at www.apple.com; Berklee Shares at www.berkleeshares.com; SoundTree at www.soundtree.com; music tech teacher extraordinaire Karen Garrett (featured in SBO April, 2007) has some great ideas at www.musictechteacher.com; and the Vermont MIDI Project at www.vtmidi.org.

Built-in Software Lesson Plans
Mastering Music distributed by Alfred Publishing offers over 400 detailed lesson plans built right into the software. These lessons are designed to run seamlessly with the application and automatically incorporate the software to create projects.

StarPlay is an automatic accompaniment-generating program with an extensive repertory for accompanying instrumental, band, and vocal students. StarPlay’s lesson plans have been developed for instrumental and classroom teachers. Each lesson includes step-by-step instruction with student handouts and references to local curriculum standards. These lesson plans can be found at: www.starplaymusic.com. This Web site also offers insightful links to a summary of each set of lesson plans covering a variety of teaching situations.

SmartMusic by Makemusic offers a unique lesson-planning component called Impact that allows teachers to post upcoming assignments to the Internet. Through Impact, teachers can communicate to students easily and effectively. SmartMusic lesson plans on their Web site include: Overview; Objectives; National Music Standards addressed; Assignment suggestions; Teacher Procedures; Assessment; Teacher Suggestions; and Lesson Extensions. An in-depth perspective of how useful SmartMusic lesson plans are can be found by clicking the “teachers” and then “resources” tabs at www.smartmusic.com.

Together, SmartMusic and Impact provides a tool that helps guide the students’ learning experience, documents their musical progress, and shares those results with students, parents, and administrators.

In Garden City, New York, Martha Boonshaft uses Smart Music to create lesson plans that teach the specific concepts that will be transferred to the students’ band literature. After researching the band pieces to be performed, the students go through the method books available on Smart Music. Exercises are chosen to teach and reinforce what the students will encounter in their band literature. The assignments are posted just as homework is in other classes. There are timelines for students to earn computer-allotted points for each exercise based on rhythm and correct notes. Students can earn additional points from the teacher for articulation, dynamics, tone, and expression. With just a few key strokes, Smart Music Impact allows her to e-mail the parents of the entire class and remind them of due dates for upcoming assignments. Getting the parents involved helps keep their children involved.

The Future of Lesson Plans
Finding lesson plans on the Internet has never been easier. Simple Google searches can produce a myriad of results. And sharing lesson plans on the Web benefits everyone, since we learn best from each other. View free collaboration sample lesson plans at www.ti-me.org; go to their Free Tour section and find some good models of music tech lesson plans. With collaborative tools such as Web 2.0 and Google Apps, it is possible for school districts to create and share lessons and lesson plans.

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